Cranberries are a member of the heather family and related to blueberries, bilberries, and lingonberries.
Due to their very sharp and sour taste, cranberries are rarely eaten raw. In fact, they’re most often consumed as juice, which is normally sweetened and blended with other fruit juices.
Other cranberry-based products include sauces, dried cranberries, and powders and extracts used in supplements.
Cranberries are rich in various healthy vitamins and plant compounds, some of which have been shown to be effective against urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Carbs and Fiber
Cranberries are primarily composed of carbs and fiber. These are mainly simple sugars, such as sucrose, glucose, and fructose.
The rest is made up of insoluble fiber — such as pectin, cellulose, and hemicellulose — which pass through your gut almost intact.
Cranberries also contain soluble fiber. For this reason, excessive consumption of cranberries may cause digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea.
On the other hand, cranberry juice contains virtually no fiber and is usually diluted with other fruit juices — and sweetened with added sugar.
Vitamins and Minerals
Cranberries are a rich source of several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C.
- Vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is one of the predominant antioxidants in cranberries. It is essential for the maintenance of your skin, muscles, and bone.
- Manganese. Found in most foods, manganese is essential for growth, metabolism, and your body’s antioxidant system.
- Vitamin E. A class of essential fat-soluble antioxidants.
- Vitamin K1. Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is essential for blood clotting.
- Copper. A trace element, often low in the Western diet. Inadequate copper intake may have adverse effects on heart health.
Other Plant Compounds
Cranberries are very high in bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants — particularly flavonol polyphenols.
Many of these plant compounds are concentrated in the skin — and are greatly reduced in cranberry juice.
Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections
UTIs are among the most common bacterial infections — especially among women.
They’re most often caused by the intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), which attaches itself to the inner surface of your bladder and urinary tract.
A number of human studies indicate that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements may reduce the risk of UTIs in both children and adults.
If you suspect that you have a UTI, talk to your healthcare professional. The primary course of treatment should be antibiotics.
Keep in mind that cranberries are not effective for treating infections. They only reduce your risk of getting them in the first place.
Prevention of Stomach Cancer and Ulcers
Stomach cancer is a common cause of cancer-related death worldwide.
Infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is considered a major cause of stomach cancer, stomach inflammation, and ulcers.
Cranberries contain unique plant compounds known as A-type proanthocyanidins, which may cut your risk of stomach cancer by preventing H. pylori from attaching to the lining of your stomach.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.
Cranberries contain various antioxidants that may be beneficial for heart health. These include anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and quercetin.
In human studies, cranberry juice or extracts have proven beneficial for various heart disease risk factors.
Safety and Side Effects
Cranberries and cranberry products are usually safe for most people if consumed in moderation.
However, excessive consumption may cause stomach upset and diarrhea — and may also increase the risk of kidney stones in predisposed individuals.